Q&A: Lauren Fix
Lauren Fix knows a lot about cars. She fell in love with them as a young girl, growing up near Detroit, learning automotive maintenance and design at her engineer father’s side. So what, you say, a lot of women know about cars these days—like a lot of guys know their way around a kitchen; no big deal. Except that it is a big deal in Fix’s case. She has carved a niche in the entertainment world as the go-to auto expert on national TV (she’s appeared six times on Oprah, as well as on every network morning news program). She speaks at car shows around the country, has written books, maintains a blog and website, and writes the weekly Car Fix column that appears in the Buffalo News. Today the Clarence mother of two is also launching an auto-parts jewelry line called Car-ma, which will be featured on QVC. Know any other car-lovers, men or women, who’ve parlayed their personal passion into an industry?
Your trademarked handle is The Car Coach. What qualifies you as such an expert in car care, repair, safety issues, buying and selling new and used cars and trucks, and driving skills? You couldn’t have learned all that from your dad!
Well, he certainly got me started. His name was George Jonas (and no, I am not related to the Jonas brothers, at least, not that I know of), and he was very, very smart. He had an engineering degree and then got his master’s in mechancial engineering from Carnegie Mellon. He worked for GM in engine design and engineering, and for Ford in engine design, and Chrysler, too.
He kept a boat and three cars in our garage, a T-bird, a ’67 Corvette that was springtime yellow with a black top and white interior, and my mom’s ’70 Barracuda, bright yellow with a black top and black interior.
Sounds like those details struck a chord in you.
I was a real tomboy back then—I used to play poker with the boys on the street for their Matchbox cars. I’d follow my dad out to the garage and ask what he was doing.
“Rotating the tires,” he’d say, and I’d ask why. And he would explain. He would draw me a diagram! He let me be his tool jockey. “Get me a vise wrench.” I would ask what that was used for, and he would break it down to a level I could understand. That’s what I do for people today. I can explain, for example, the anti-lock brake system.
The Detroit area must have been Disneyland to a kid with your sensibilities. What brought you to Western New York?
When I was ten, my dad lost his job, and we moved here. For years, he had been working on solutions to problems, like brakes that failed on the old Corvettes. That turned into a business, Stainless Steel Brakes Corporation, which my parents started in Clarence. I used to help out by wrapping brake calipers for shipping. As a teenager, I would save any money I made for the car of my dreams, like the one Jim Rockford drove in TV’s Rockford Files. At fifteen, I rode my bike out to Clarence Auto Parts where I negotiated a price on the used car I coveted—a ’76 Camaro, cream-colored with a tan interior. Of course I couldn’t take it, since I was underage, so my dad had to fetch it, and keep it in his garage, where I waxed it and changed the oil. Did that wrong the first time, but then I got it right. I learned a lot about cars back then—and a lot about people. The day I turned sixteen, I got my permit. My parents didn’t have time to teach me to drive, so I went to a driving school and, with my own money, paid for some lessons. Ten days later, I passed my road test on the first try. I was very competent, and confident.
So here you were, all of sixteen—what was next on your agenda?
Between my junior and senior year of high school, I went to my first autocross, sponsored by the Sports Car Club of America. I sold my Camaro, bought a ’79 Mustang Cobra, and started racing. At age seventeen, I set a track record and was first in my class. I was also working on some issues as car design changed, and developed a drum-to-disc brake conversion kit, which I submitted for consideration to the Society of Automotive Engineers. They accepted me as their youngest member at age seventeen.
Like father, like daughter?
My father was the engineering side; I’m an idea person.
What else do you do besides eat, sleep, and dream about cars?
Well, I love the gym. And I love to travel, especially to New York City and Italy. Of course I’ve been to the big car factories there—Lamborghini and Ferrari. I’ve done motivational speaking in Berlin and Cancun. I love technology—if there’s a new device, I’ve got it. And there’s my new jewelry line, like this pendant, which features a bearing from a car part.
That answers that. What do you drive?
An Audi TTS. It’s orange. But we have twenty-two cars.